The Gilroy Garlic Festival Association made it official this week: The festival will return to Christmas Hill Park in 2020.
In announcing the festival’s return to the scene of the fatal mass shooting, 2020 Gilroy Garlic Festival President Tom Cline said, “This year was a very challenging one, but we are committed to continuing the progress we have made, and are looking forward to Garlic Festival 42 at Christmas Hill Park in July 2020.”
The announcement was not unexpected, and it ended nearly three months of silence and erased any doubts that the festival would rebound from the tragedy and return to the park that it has called home for more than four decades.
A temporary memorial sits at the northeast corner of the festival site, a reminder of the lives lost and injuries suffered in the July 28 attack.
Numbers released Oct. 15 by Brian Bowe, executive director of the festival, showed the festival association faces a new reality of significantly lower attendance figures for the second straight year.
After years of 100,000-plus attendance, the iconic three-day festival reported overall attendance in 2019 of 84,830, a more than 5 percent increase over last year’s disappointing attendance of approximately 80,000.
The good news, according to Bowe, is that the festival’s gross income and payouts to volunteers increased over 2018.
“Our leadership team is already working on next year’s budget and looking at more ways to enhance this event while supporting our many community partners who count on the festival for vital funding,” said Cline in a statement.
The festival association announced it will pay $250,000 to 155 local charities and non-profit organizations this year, which brings the Gilroy Garlic Festival’s 41-year total distributions to local non-profits to over $12 million. In 2018, the festival paid out $255,000 to 170 local nonprofits.
Many non-profits also are independent vendors at the festival. The festival said it does not track gross receipts of either the independent nonprofits or retail business vendors, except to say the totals are in the “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
The festival association’s gross income for 2019 was projected to be about 13 percent higher, at $3.08 million, than 2018, reported Bowe. He said expenses remained flat at $3.13 million.
“At the end of the fiscal year, organizers expect a net loss of approximately $100,000, which is a significant improvement over the $400,000 loss in 2018,” he said.
The festival’s Volunteer Equity Program distribution represents an hourly rate of $7.37 for volunteers (up from $7.22 in 2018), Bowe said.
Since 1979, the Gilroy Garlic Festival has distributed proceeds to benefit local non-profit groups and service organizations based on the number of volunteer hours each organization logs at the Festival. Volunteers for non-profits work at the festival, and their pay is disbursed to their non-profit sponsors. For many of these groups, the festival is the biggest—and sometimes the only—fundraiser of the year.
In 2019 more than 4,000 volunteers logged 37,734 hours at the three-day event, he said.
“This year more than ever, we are grateful for the tireless dedication of our volunteers,” said 2019 Gilroy Garlic Festival President Shawn Keck. “All of their hard work provides essential funding for many of our community’s most valued organizations.”